When Patients Complain About Other Healthcare Providers
But it’s important to remember to be particularly cautious in these situations. While it may be tempting to comment when you believe that a patient was not provided with the appropriate treatment, it is never a good idea to second-guess, disparage, criticize or “bad-mouth” another healthcare provider. It’s not professional, and your criticism could increase the patient’s dissatisfaction, creating problems for you.
For example, if a patient quits taking needed medication because he believed you agreed the past treatment was inappropriate, you could be implicated if the patient’s health suffers as a result. Or your negative comments about prior care could be the tipping point that sends a patient thinking about litigation to an attorney’s office. Many lawsuits have been initiated when a subsequent provider made remarks such as, “Well, it’s a good thing you came to me when you did.”
What Should You Do?
Keep in mind that you are hearing only one side of the story. The patient’s opinions may be based on a number of factors and could be very subjective. It’s a good idea to avoid being drawn into these types of discussions. If you find it necessary to respond, try to maintain a neutral position with comments like: “There are different ways to approach this” or “I have a different practice style and philosophy than Dr. X.”
Just as in any relationship, incompatibility can occur in a doctor/patient relationship. Some patients are just not a good match for a particular treatment approach or communication style. In these cases, the patient can become dissatisfied and not comply with treatment, resulting in a less than optimal outcome.
Be aware that some patients who disparage other doctors may be predatory patients. These individuals are often experts at appealing to a practitioner’s ego by saying things like, “The last doctor I saw was hopeless, but I’ve heard good things about you.” If possible, check with past healthcare providers to find out why a patient was discharged. (A release from the patient to contact the prior treater will be needed.)
At the same time, if there are repeated complaints of substandard care by a particular provider and you have a concern about the quality of care or patient safety, don’t ignore the situation. Seek advice from your licensing board, and if necessary, your practice attorney.